Joplin, Missouri — The Joplin Public School District in Joplin, Missouri, agreed to suspend a Bible study program that offered students donuts in exchange for participating in teacher and clergy-led prayer and Bible reading, after a complaint from the American Humanist Association.
According to the Joplin Globe, the school district has announced, “…we have suspended the Bible study as it is currently organized.” The school district states that it halted the program, as well as similar Bible study programs at district middle schools because they did not comply with a district policy that permits student-led initiatives only for grades 9 through 12.
In December, the American Humanist Association contacted Joplin School District about the Bible study program at North Middle School after a concerned parent with children in the district reported that the group was led by teachers and outside clergy, who initiated prayers and Christian scripture readings with the students. The Bible study also took place during school hours, on campus and encouraged students to attend by offering free donuts, given out only after the Bible study concluded. The American Humanist Association condemned the religious program as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
“We are pleased that the program has stopped, but disappointed that the district, perhaps in an attempt to save face, has falsely described the program as lawful. In fact, the program was very much adult-led and clearly unconstitutional,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.
“Nevertheless, the important outcome is that the school will no longer be promoting Christianity and luring children to Christian meetings with promises of special treats.”
The American Humanist Association is currently engaged in a lawsuit challenging the Joplin Public School District for sending North Middle School students on an unconstitutional field trip to a Christian sports complex.